News From Around The Blogosphere 5.29.11

May 29, 2011

1. Murdering teen escapes punishment because she was possessed by evil spirits

Lorraine Mbulawa, 19, escaped jail after judge Mr Justice Keith accepted the girl had such strong beliefs in witchcraft and evil that she was acting upon what she was told to do by spirits.

2. Anti-vaxxers forcefully remove peaceful protester from their convention – Ken Reibel and Jamie Bernstein were both ejected from the anti-vaccine “Autism One” conference by 3 security guards and 4 police officers. Their crime: being recognized as dissenters of the movement’s ideology. This speaks volumes about the intellectual integrity of their movement. If anti-vaxxers attended TAM or NECSS, no one would kick them out unless they were actually disrupting the conference.

3. Catholic adoption agency shuts down rather than let gays adopt – Finally, a charity that has its priorities in place. Better a child grow up in an institution than risk that child being infected by evil, gay cooties. Good thinking there, Catholic Charities of Rockford! You guys are a class act all the way!

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

Derren Brown exposes the faith healers by inventing his own

April 28, 2011

Conversations with dead people

March 28, 2011
William Shatner and Patricia Breslin in "...

Image via Wikipedia

I just got a distressing comment on an old piece I did about bogus psychics claiming to be able to communicate with the ghost of Michael Jackson beyond the grave. The comment distressed me so much I decided to re-post it along with my reply in a separate piece here.

First the comment:

Hi..i am 15 and i am sort of sensitive. I have predicted things before they happen in my dreams before. I had a dream when i was younger that my mom had to go to the hospital becausse something happened with her leg. I told my dad about it the next morning and sure enough i got a call from her. My loved ones have also came to me in my dreams. I was just wondering if you could contact my oma (grandma) for me. She died when i was very young and i miss her so much. I dont understand why she had to die when i was that young. I just need to know if shes stilla round me. Also can you ask her if i will ever see spirits like you???

-shannon : )

This perhaps summarizes better than I could ever articulate the harm caused by these alleged psychics, these grief-rapists, who prey on people at their most vulnerable. I was reminded of that great Twilight Zone episode, Nick of Time, where William Shatner plays a man who becomes almost hopelessly obsessed with a penny fortune-telling machine that appears to really foretell the future. The obsession almost takes over his life:

Here was my responnse to Shannon:

Shannon, it is not my intent to sound harsh or mean but unfortunately everyone has had that dream. On a long enough time line, everyone eventually has an occasional dream that seems to correspond to an event that happens soon after. There’s nothing paranormal about.

Unfortunately, as difficult as it must be to accept, your grandmother is gone. No one…NO ONE can communicate with her and if someone tells you they can, they are either lying to you or are lying to themselves.

You don’t need some charlatan to tell you what you want to hear, that your grandmother is up in heaven somewhere looking down on you and loves you very much. Without any magical powers, I can say with strong confidence that your grandmother loved you. And much as we might want to believe that our loved ones are not really gone and are out there somewhere because we’re scared about the finality of death, there is a beauty in death. If existence lasted forever it would lack any real value. So while I cannot say for certain that death is the end, I think the best way to live is under the assumption that this is all we get and to live this life to the fullest and with a view towards helping to leave the world better than when we found it.

You don’t need your grandmother to live a happy, healthy, productive, and wonderful life. And you certainly don’t need some crook to charge you for the service of lying to you no matter how pleasant those lies are. My advice is that you move on and live the best life you can while taking the time to appreciate your loved ones in the here and now.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

George, difficult to see, the future is.

January 20, 2011
George Lucas
Image via Wikipedia

Okay, I debated whether or not to talk about the George Lucas rumor going around because right now its just unsubstantiated gossip, I’m only hearing the story second-hand, and because I respect George Lucas a lot. The man was involved in some major capacity in at least 5 movies in my list of top 30 films of all time, including my the top 2 films on that list. And no other filmmaker has been a bigger influence on me. But it occurred to me that had this been a celebrity I didn’t care about, I would write about it, so I can’t play favorites.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the story. Seth Rogen claims that he met with both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and that during that meeting, Lucas revealed that he was a big believer in the alleged Mayan prophecy that the world would end in 2012.

According to Rogen:

“George Lucas sits down and seriously proceeds to talk for around 25 minutes about how he thinks the world is gonna end in the year 2012, like, for real. He thinks it.“He’s going on about the tectonic plates and all the time Spielberg is, like, rolling his eyes, like, ’My nerdy friend won’t shut up, I’m sorry…’

“I first thought he (Lucas) was joking… and then I totally realized he was serious and then I started thinking, ’If you’re George Lucas and you actually think the world is gonna end in a year, there’s no way you haven’t built a spaceship for yourself… So I asked him… ’Can I have a seat on it?’

“He claimed he didn’t have a spaceship, but there’s no doubt there’s a Millennium Falcon in a garage somewhere with a pilot just waiting to go… It’s gonna be him and Steven Spielberg and I’ll be blown up like the rest of us.”

And now everyone’s talking about it…which I guess is a good thing because the overwhelming public sentiment seems to be that no intelligent person should really take this 2012 doomsday thing seriously and perhaps a little mockery will change Lucas’ mind on the thing if this story is legitimate in the first place.

Now it’s not that I seriously think Rogen would make up a story like this out of thin air to get media attention now that he’s got a movie out in theaters. I think he comes off as a really genuine guy and seems like he’s almost certainly a big fan of Lucas’.

So I don’t think it’s made up. But it’s possible that Lucas and maybe Spielberg were having fun with him and Rogen didn’t pick up on it. Of course it’s also possible George Lucas really, truly believes the world will end in 2012. Though his actions over the past few years don’t seem to suggest that is the case. Then again, I find most believers in these sorts of impending doomsday ideas tend to live lives inconsistent with that belief just like religious people who believe death will bring them to paradise seem to go as out of their way to avoid death as any atheist. So it’s possible there’s a compartmentalization aspect to this where he’s kind of obsessed with reading books on the subject and is buying into some of it without really acting in a way that’s congruent with that belief.

I don’t want to get into absurdity of these beliefs now. That’s been done to death. Contrary to what we hear from the delusional, in most ways the world is actually getting better. To quote Nerdfighter Hank Green:

In the last 100 years the human lifespan has increased by over 35 years. 100 years ago the average lifespan was only 45 years. Now it’s almost 80. And that number is increasing every year. If it keeps increasing at that same rate, the average lifespan of a child born in 2008 will be 98 years old.
Teen pregnancy, smoke, and drug use have all decreased significantly since the 1990s.
Rates of cancer have decreased steadily in the U.S. for 20 years and it’s not just because people aren’t smoking as much, though that’s certainly part of it. It’s also because new screening techniques that can detect pre-cancerous lesions in the colon and also because of the HPV vaccine which prevents the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Small Pox once killed millions of people per year; now it has been completely eradicated. It literally does not exist anymore.
Since 1990, global poverty rates have decreased by more than 30%. And they’re on-track to have decreas 40% by 2015.
Divorce rates are much lower than people assume, and have consistently dropped since the 1970’s in America. Only 20% of people who got married in the 1980s got divorced.
Violent crime rates dropped 5% between 2007 and 2008. And violent crime rates have been dropping consistently every year since 1993
The Red Cross collects 15 million blood donations per year. No one is compensated for those donations, except with cookies and juice. People just like helping other people.
In 1970 there were only 400 breeding pairs of Bald Eagles left in America, but the Endangered Species t effectively saved the species. There are now more than 10,000 breeding pairs. During the same time Whooping Cranes returned from a much more serious 50 birds total in the entire world. There are now over 500.

So in guess you were thinking that boy was our last hope, Yoda was right. There is another.

[UPDATE 1/23/11 – Wired.com reported that Lucasfilm, via email, said Lucas’ comments were a joke].

Enhanced by Zemanta

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.27.10

December 27, 2010

1. Christianity loses majority in England – For the first time, an annual British Social Attitudes survey suggests Christianity does not represent the majority of British citizens, with only 42% self-identifying as Christians while 51% now saying they have no religion. America is making progress in that area as well bu still has ways to go, as 26% of Millennials saying they’re religiously unaffiliated compared with 20% of GenXers and 14% of Baby Boomers.

2. What’s the harm in voodoo? – a Haitian mob has taking to lynching voodoo priests over the belief that voodoo is the cause of the recent cholera outbreak. It should be noted that Germ Theory was being argued as early as at least 1700 by physician Nicolas Andry as an explanation for small pox and other diseases and that John Snow contributed to the formation of the germ theory when he traced the source of the 1854 cholera outbreak in Soho, London. And for those keeping track, the Haitian cholera outbreak being blamed on voodoo is happening in the year 2010, over a hundred and fifty years later. That’s like attributing the dishwasher (1850), sewing machine (1851), and pasteurisation (1856) to demons.

3. I usually don’t like seeing children get spanked but PZ does it so well – Occasionally, PZ Myers posts a particularly egregious creationist email he gets and has his fun dissecting and demolishing its points. This time, it was an email from a creationist claiming to be a 12-year-old boy. Now normally I would say leave the kid alone as it seems overly cruel to publicly ridicule someone so young. But to the kid’s credit (if we take his age at face value), it’s fairly well written for a 12-year-old (minus some glaring typos) and it’s actually precisely the same arguments we hear from adult creationists all the time, so I can’t really fault PZ for using this email as chance to educate.

Enhanced by Zemanta

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.22.10

December 22, 2010

1. Catholic Church tells hospital they should have let patient die – A pregnant woman who was almost certainly going to die came into St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. The doctors knew that in order to save the woman’s life, they’d have to abort the fetus. And it worked. But the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix didn’t like that decision and so they essentially excommunicated the hospital from any Catholic affiliation. They actually punished a hospital for putting patient life first. Though I guess it’s not really a punishment since now the hospital administration can continue to act ethically without having to give the misguided and ignorant opinions of Catholic officials another thought.

And speaking of the Catholic Church…

2. WikiLeaks uncovers another possible Vatican scandal – The Vatican originally agreed in writing to take up observer status with the International Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, referred to as the ITF. Then, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable from WikiLeaks, they reneged on the agreement amid controversy over the role of the war-time pope.

She added that the deal “had fallen apart completely … due to Vatican back-pedaling,” according to the cable, which was published by the newspaper.

The message says this decision “may have been taken by the Vatican’s relatively inexperienced new deputy foreign minister (Ettore Balestrero), and if so, would not be the first time he has complicated Vatican foreign relations.”

However, it added: “The Vatican may also be pulling back due to concerns about ITF pressure to declassify records from the WWII-era pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

Yup, you can always count on the Vatican…for a good scandal.

3. Gallop poll suggests America is gradually moving towards accepting evolution – When it comes to accepting evolution, America is somewhat of an embarrassment to the rest of the world. In recent years, polls have shown that up to 47% of Americans are Young Earth Creationists. But a new poll suggests that number is now only 40%. Still not anything remotely to be proud of but it suggests that maybe our efforts to take on the creationists may be yielding positive results.

4. Sanjay Gupta embarrassingly uncritical of John of God – Unfortunately, CNN hasn’t put up the video yet of this segment, but I’ve linked to their blog about it. For those who don’t know, John of God is a Brazilian con artist posing as a faith healer. He does nothing we haven’t seen other “faith healers” who have been exposed as frauds have done, and yet Sanjay Gupta and his guests still found him to be “mysterious.” In fact, given how many times they reminded the audience during this segment that the universe is mysterious and there are still things we don’t know, Gupta made it clear that journalistic and scientific integrity was not very high on his list of priorities. I intend to write to CNN to express my outrage over the segment and demand that they fire Sanjay Gupta for his anti-intellectual nonsense. I hope others will join me in this campaign.

Enhanced by Zemanta

What they died for

July 27, 2010

Over the last few days, there have been a number of news stories that have gotten my attention that seem to be connected. Now I’m not going to tell you what the connection is. I’ll let you see if you can figure it out.

1. Baby drowns in baptism – Don’t get this confused with this story from two years ago about a man believed to have drown in baptism or this story from last year about a dozen people drowning in baptism.

2. Oregon faith-healing parents trying to get their kid back while facing criminal charges for first-degree criminal mistreatment after not seeking medical treatment for their 7-month-old daughter who developed a LARGE growth over her left eye. The father was previously married to another woman but she died of breast cancer four years ago after not seeking or receiving any medical treatment for the condition. I guess fool him once, shame on him; fool him twice, even greater shame on him for not learning a god-damned thing!

3. Utah overturns Warren Jeffs convictions and orders a new trial – Allegedly the reason is that the jury instructions were erroneous. Just think, he might get to rape more kids just yet! Praise Joseph Smith!

Enhanced by Zemanta